Oslo is one of those rare European cities where nature and metropolis mesh and connect in ways that cruise passengers can enjoy without a great deal of effort. The Norwegian capital’s compact city center puts many attractions within walking distance and others only a short transit away on ferries, trams, bikes or city busses.
Cruise ships deliver you directly to the city’s doorstep. Step off the ship, and you’re already in the city center. The main cruise port is situated alongside Akerhus Fortress, the medieval castle and royal residence dating back from 1299.
Radhuset (City Hall), worth a visit, is only a short walk away, as is the beautiful and bustling waterfront known as Aker Brygge, with its many shops and restaurants.
Between City Hall and Aker Brygge is the fascinating Nobel Peace Center. You could make a full day of visiting these attractions and never lose sight of your ship.
If you’d like to combine cultural excursions with some good shopping and a chance to enjoy Oslo’s natural beauty, start your journey by picking up a 24-hour Oslo Pass (Norwegian Kroner 230), which gives you access to local transportation, admission to museums and more. You’ll be able to find the card at Visit Oslo’s information center in the cruise terminal.
Show your Oslo Pass for free entry into the Nobel Peace Center, situated near the City Hall in a converted, historic train station. Opened in 2005, the Nobel Peace Center is worthy of a full-day’s visit, but you’re only going to be able to get a sampling of the interesting exhibits, intriguing presentations, and inspiring films. The current exhibit “From King to Obama” portrays the American Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s — the effort that paved the way for Barack Obama’s historic election.
Just a few steps from the Nobel Peace Center, use your card again to board the ferry at the sign that reads “Bygdøy Museums.” Hop off the ferry at stop number two to visit three fascinating martime museums, all accessible with your Oslo Pass.
- The Polarship Fram Museum, featuring the entire original Arctic exploration ship FRAM, built in 1892, exhibited with its original interior and objects.
- Kon-Tiki Museum, containing the original vessel and objects from Thor Heyerdahl’s many exhibitions, including famous Kon-Tiki raft from 1947 and the papyrus raft RA II from 1970.
- It’s a short walk from these two museums to see the world’s best preserved Viking ships at the Viking Ship Museum, featuring the 9th-century restored Oseberg, Gokstad and Tune ships as well as other findings from royal burial mounds around the Oslo Fjord.
Use your map to walk to the Norwegian Folk Museum, where you can see what life was like in the small villages around Norway in the past two centuries. Europe’s largest and oldest outdoor museum features rural and urban houses from throughout Norway and a 13th century stave church.
If you haven’t missed your ship yet, hop on bus #30 back into town. If time permits, visit Vigelands Sculpture Park, where the Norwegian artist Gustav Vigeland created some 200 sculptures in granite and bronze distributed throughout the park.
From the park, tram #13 takes you back to the city center. It’s worthwhile to step off the tram near Det Kongelige Slottet (The Royal Palace), where you can admire the vanilla-and cream-colored neoclassical palace that was completed in 1848. Guided tours are available.
Make your way to the equestrian statue of Karl Johan, King of Sweden and Norway from 1818 to 1844. Facing in the same direction as the king, you’re looking at Karl Johans Gate, the popular shopping street.
From here, you could make a sure diversion to Ibsen-museet, which pays tribute to the famed Norwegian dramatist Henrik Ibsen, who spent his final in the apartment on the second floor, until his death in 1906.
Whether you visit the Ibsen Museum or not, don’t leave Oslo without a stroll along Karl Johans Gate. Walking from the Royal Palace takes you past Oslo’s cathedral, Norway’s parliament, and the Grand Hotel, opened in 1874 and where the Nobel laureates sleep.
Henrik Ibsen was a regular at the Grand Cafe, where he enjoyed brandy in the company of journalists. The artist Edvard Munch was a regular guest also; you can see him with his contemporaries in a painting on the cafe’s far wall.
If you happen to be in Olso on National Day, May 17, make an effort to get into the Grand’s Etoile Bar to watch the colorful parades.
From the Grand Hotel, find your way back to City Hall, where the Nobel Peace Prize is awarded each December. Step inside to admire the many museum-quality masterpieces and frescoes in
the Main Hall, then head upstairs to the Banquet Hall to see the royal portraits.
Leave City Hall to take a stroll along Aker Brygge, with its more than 40 restaurants and 60 shops. If you’re famished from your busy day ashore, take a seat at Lofoten Fiskerestaurant, at the end of Aker Brygge by the harbor. Named for the Lofoten Islands off the northwest coast, this Aker Brygge restaurant is considered one of Oslo’s best for fish, from salmon to cod to monkfish. It has a bright, fresh, minimalistic interior with harbor views and a summertime patio.
Another option for dining is Solsiden, meaning “sunny side” for the fact that it receives more hours of daylight than restaurants on the opposite side of the wharf at Aker Brygge. With live lobster tanks and an open-air setting, Solsiden is a great place to go for alfresco seafood.
One of Oslo’s newest attractions is the ICEBAR by ICEHOTEL, located in Christian IVs gate in downtown Oslo. Everything inside the bar is made of ice from Sweden’s Torne River: walls, furniture, bar, artwork and glasses.
Make your way back to your ship, but before stepping on board take some time to visit Akershus Slott og Festning (Akershus Castle and Fortress). Dating to 1299, this stone medieval castle and royal residence was developed into a fortress armed with cannons by 1592. After that time, it withstood a number of sieges and then fell into decay. It was finally restored in 1899. Summer tours take you through its magnificent halls, the castle church, the royal mausoleum, reception rooms, and banqueting halls.
You’ve had a long and full day in Norway’s capital city, and now it’s time to sail away. Find a good place on the ship, aft, or on your balcony, to watch Oslo slip into the ship’s wake.
What sets Oslo apart from other European cities is not so much its cultural traditions or its internationally renowned museums as its simply stunning natural beauty, something you can appreciate as you sail away from Norway’s stunning capital.
If You Have More Time: Oslo Outdoors
It’s not often that you find a European city with subway service to the forest or with mountains and lakes, hiking trails and huge expanses of parks — all within the city limits. If your ship arrives on a sunny day, you’ll certainly want to soak up some of the Norwegian capital’s unspoiled nature. Lace up your hiking boots, pack a picnic or rent a bicycle to experience what makes this city so magical. Oslo connects the great outdoors with a world-class metropolis.
Oslo’s natural surroundings and climate make it ideally suited to outdoor pursuits. The Oslo fjord and its islands, the forested woodlands, called the marka, and extended daylight in summer all make the Norwegian capital an irresistible place for outdoor activities.
One place to enjoy Oslo outdoors is the Holmenkollen Ski Jump and Ski Museum, set above Oslo with magnificent views of the city and fjord and easy to reach from the city center. Note, however, the Ski Museum, Jump Tower and the rest of the ski arena are closed for rebuilding for the 2011 FIS World Cup Nordic.
The Ski Museum reopens in May 2010. The museum presents the history of skiing over the past 4000 years, as well as the Polar expeditions of Fridtjof Nansen and Roald Amundsen and some historic glimpses from the Winter Olympics at Lillehammer in 1994 and in Oslo in 1952. It is also possible to visit the top of the ski tower (from summer 2010), where you can enjoy a spectacular view of Oslo and the Oslo fjord.
This article is provided free to the travel agent community by:
ShoreTrips – Sign in to create your own TripPlanner itinerary of shore excursions for your clients!
An avid traveler and an award-winning journalist, Ralph Grizzle produces articles, video and photos that are inspiring and informative, personal and passionate. A journalism graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Ralph has specialized in travel writing for more than two decades. To read more cruise and port reviews by Ralph Grizzle, visit his website at www.avidcruiser.com